It was a humid and cloudy day in mid-May. I was stressed out because I misjudged how long it would take me to get to the Prometric center. Luckily, I made it with plenty of time to spare. This was my first attempt taking the MCCEE (Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam).
My mark: 313
The exam: You start with a tutorial. There was a highlighting function that worked very, very poorly and was rather distracting/time-wasting. Once the tutorial was over, there it was. 1 out of 180 questions in the top left corner. A timer counting down from 4:00:00 on the right. There was no blocks, just question after question. There was a calculator function. No labs button (but the questions gave you normal values in the stem). 4 hours is plenty of time to get through the exam. The questions were fair. Nothing to abstract or out of the ordinary. There was something that annoyed me and I don’t know if it’s because I wrote the exam in the UK, but every time there was any mention of acetaminophen, there was paracetamol in parenthesis right next to it – each time. I don’t know if that’s because I was writing the test in Europe, where Tylenol is known as paracetamol, or whether I would have come across the same thing had I been doing the exam in Canada. Another thing that annoyed me was the highlighter function – you weren’t able to highlight a word without highlighting ALL of the text that came before it. And forget about trying to highlight two different words in a stem – disaster. Anyway, after the exam, you have time for a survey, where I would have mentioned all of the above – but my keyboard wasn’t working! I ended up clicking through it to exit out just to get it over and done with at the end.
My study prep: I bought the CanadaQBank in September for 6 months, with the initial intent on writing the exam in March. However, I wasn’t really studying and work got in the way. Before I knew it, it was February – my exam hadn’t been booked yet and I didn’t feel anywhere near ready. I decided then that I would book it for May, extend my QBank subscription, and really get cracking on it. I went through all the questions in 50Q blocks by topic in tutor mode. I started with my easiest subject (surgery) and saved my worst (medicine) for last. It took me until May to get through everything once. I made flashcards and used Dr Google (Medscape and Wikipedia) to fill in any gaps on my weaker subjects. Finally, I went through a few question sets using only the difficult questions on an untimed mode. The day before the exam, I did four sets of 45 questions in a timed mode – only to practice going through 180 questions in a test-like scenario. I’d like to say I used another resource, but I didn’t. I do think almost two years of clinical work does help though.
My advice: Think back to previous exams you’ve written and those you did well on. Some people like to read books to study. Others like to watch videos or listen to audio files. Others like to learn from question banks. I’ve always found that I learn best by doing questions. The easy ones are those I can apply to patients and medical conditions I’ve seen and treated previously. My one successful strategy is being able to apply medical knowledge to real-world scenarios. That’s where my strength came in. Also, be fluid and adaptable to what’s going on in your life. My plan to write the exam in March didn’t happen as planned, so I had to re-work a few things and re-plan my schedule because life was getting in the way. If you’re in med school, it’s a lot easier to create a study schedule and stick with it. But if you’re working or have a family or other priorities, you need to be able to adjust for them.
Everything is about trial-and-error. I’ve read through dozens of message boards and forums to try to find that one successful strategy. It’s different for everyone. I’ve previously done all of Kaplan. I’ve tried Goljan, DIT, the Pass Program – you name it. I’ve studied for school exams by reading chapter after chapter – I didn’t retain much. I’ve listened to audio files – didn’t retain much either. Most of my knowledge has come from being able to apply what I’m studying to real life scenarios. If I had understood this whilst a student, I would have put in a much greater effort during my clinical years to learn as much as I could from the patients I was seeing.
What’s next: MCCQE1 (approx $1000) and the NAC OSCE (approx $2500). I need to have done (and passed) the NAC OSCE in order to apply to CaRMS in October/November 2017. But I also want to write the QE1 around the same time to have it over and done with; and so I can stick it on my CV. It’s too late to write the NAC OSCE in November, so I will try to get the exams booked for Spring 2017. In the meantime, I’ll have a look around to develop a study schedule and see if there are any study resources that may be useful over the coming months.